Much is being made by Monday morning armchair quarterbacks about Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett’s play-calling at the end of his team’s 20-16 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday. These people are saying Garrett was too conservative with his play-calling. The most notable of these accusations is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. After criticizing Garrett for being too aggressive in Dallas’ last game, now he’s saying the Cowboys’ head coach is too conservative.
“Last week we didn’t go conservative and we second-guessed that,” Jones said. “This week we went conservative and we’re going to second-guess that. I would have like to have seen him go for the first down.”
Does Jones have a severe case of short-term memory loss? Did he suddenly forget that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw three second-half interceptions in a 34-30 loss to the Detroit Lions two weeks ago (not “last week”)? Romo’s final of those three picks was on the Cowboys’ final drive with his team leading by three points with little time remaining.
Following that game, Jones publicly questioned Garrett for putting the game in Romo’s hands. This week Garrett did exactly as Jones wanted him to and now the Cowboys’ immature owner is saying the opposite. Jones changes his mind more often than Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. He referenced a Cowboys win in the 1993 NFC Championship game as his basis for being so wishy-washy.
“It could have been a tremendous boon for us,” Jones said. “That is the whole point. This is the kind game you throw off the goal line like we did in the championship game against San Francisco. You don’t usually make that call. But it won us the game. It was very similar situation in my mind.”
Yes, a first down was definitely on the mind of Garrett as was Romo’s recent late-game catastrophes. Cowboys rookie running back DeMarco Murray had played well in the contest and Garrett was confident his young running back could run out the clock. Regardless of that, Garrett was smart not to put the game in Romo’s hands and that has nothing to do with his confidence in the Cowboys’ quarterback.
If Garrett had opted to pass and Romo had given the game away at the end, the turmoil surrounding this team would have mounted to an unconquerable level. The negativity surrounding Romo has been almost overwhelming this season and another late-game giveaway would have ruined him for the season.
To top it all off, the Cowboys’ defense had held the Patriots’ offense in check for the entire game. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s unit held Patriots quarterback Tom Brady at bay and Garrett believed he could do it again. That’s what championship coaches do; they believe in their players and their coaching staff. No, that doesn’t mean Garrett should have “believed” in Romo to throw the ball with a 3-point lead and little time left. As a coach, you believe in your players who have earned that respect and confidence. The defense earned Garrett’s trust in this game; Romo didn’t and hasn’t so far this year.
Garrett made the right call to run the ball at the end of the game, hands down. Anyone who thinks he should have put the ball in the air in that situation knows nothing about managing a football game, especially at the NFL level. Any Cowboys fan who thinks so is not a true fan because all the Dallas faithful were crossing their fingers, toes and eyes that Garrett wouldn’t allow Romo to throw the ball. This is just a classic case of America’s Team politics.